Sensibilities with Madison DeCook

I first met Madison through our shared lease of a bay Thoroughbred gelding named Fortune.  We bonded over the quirks and needs of this special horse, and out of the experience we developed a great friendship. Madison is an amazing trainer, and every lesson I learn more about the biomechanics of my body and I feel like a more effective rider. Her focus with horses is to help them discover what they want to do and she listens to them, finding out where it hurts, what their fears are, and encouraging their strengths. Her quiet and steady energy is a joy to watch, and I am so glad to have the opportunity to learn from her.

Please enjoy this interview with her, and if you are interested in learning more please follow her on Instagram: @galbraith.eq

*If you need a video with closed captions, please contact me!*

Ask the Trainer- Instagram Submitted Questions!

What is the hardest part of your job?

“There is a huge psychological burden that comes with being a horse trainer. We care for semi-suicidal animals and often have to be the ones helping them through their hardest moments. On the human side, we are the most under-qualified form of psychotherapy out there. While I love helping horses and humans handle their issues, both physical and mental, I sometimes struggle with emotional fatigue that comes with it.”

What do you wish your students were more respectful of?

“My time. More specifically, my free time. I don’t get a lot of it, sometimes I go for weeks without a day off. So my mornings and evenings can be sacred and I don’t want to spend them thinking about work or texting for hours. I’m always afraid to demand that me-time though, because people can so easily feel that “I’m being hard to reach” or “that I don’t care about their problems”. But I need time to let recharge in order to give them more quality interaction during my actual working hours.”

What’s your approach to working with a fearful rider?

“Fear is our strongest survival instinct. But fear grows when we don’t have the tools or knowledge to see past the blinders of instinct. The first step is to uncover the source of the fear. Is it a fear of falling? Fear of getting injured? Fear of feeling out of control? Was there a specific incident that triggered the fear or did it develop from insecurity? By bringing awareness to the root of the problem, you can start to replace it with positive motivators; correcting posture to feel more secure in the saddle, re-starting from the basics to prove to the rider that they can control themselves and therefor their horse, riding on the lunge line with “no control” to develop trust. I always start slow and reward even the slightest indication of change to help the rider change their mindset from “I’m afraid” to “I know how not to be afraid.”

Tips for riders that get into their own head on course?

“We are all guilty of getting in our own heads. And it is the single greatest setback we can have as riders. It’s funny, fear taught me how to get out of my head. I was so afraid of jumping at one point that I had to mentally tell myself “Get over it and breathe” every time I stepped into the ring. There are so many psychological tricks you can use, but honest to George Morris, the best thing you can do to get out of your head is count your rhythm. Count your horse’s canter rhythm and suddenly everything falls into place.”

What are some of the best flat work exercises to do when you are riding alone?

“This is a tough one to answer. You can do any exercise known to horse-kind. But if you don’t do it correctly, is it really worth doing? So I guess the best answer is “Do what you know you can do right.” Maybe it’s as simple as extending and collecting gaits. Or maybe working on bending through circles or yielding from the leg. Or even lateral work if you know what you’re asking for. Ultimately flat work is about responsiveness and suppleness, for both horse and rider. So spend the time learning what your horse knows and what they don’t know, their strengths and weaknesses.”

-Madison DeCook

I hope you enjoyed our interview! If you are based in Colorado and are interested in collaborating, please reach out!

Love from a candid moment, Connie

One thought on “Sensibilities with Madison DeCook

  1. I am so excited to see what is next for you with these interviews! I wish I was something so that I could be interviewed by you – But maybe someday when I am a vet! This was beautifully executed and I loved hearing Maddie’s insights.


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